Efforts to combat hunger abound despite uneven retail playing field in many rural communities
Washington, D.C. – National Grocers Association member retailer RF Buche, fourth-generation grocer and president of South Dakota-based GF Buche Co., testified as part of a roundtable, “Ending Hunger in America: Food Insecurity in Rural America,” Wednesday before the House Rules Committee. In his testimony, Buche detailed efforts by his company to tackle food insecurity.
Buche has worked to establish grocery stores in communities that lack access to fresh food items. Additionally, the company stocks a travel trailer with healthy foods as well as essential products for areas where there is very little means of transportation. The company is also working with a non-profit on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to secure a semi-truck and trailer with both frozen and cold storage. “On a consistent basis, this would be used for food and essential item distribution in food deserts in the districts (small communities within the reservation) without grocery stores,” Buche explained.
Similarly, the grocer stocks food lockers in areas with limited access to grocery products. The company received a grant to install temperature-controlled food locker units in Marty, S.D., a town 16 miles from the nearest grocery store and where many residents have no means of transportation. Residents are able to order groceries online from the locker units as well as a smart device using SNAP, debit or credit. A cold storage delivery truck is used to bring residents their groceries and deposit them into lockers Residents then use a code provided to them after they order to access their groceries within the unit.
Another effort Buche highlighted was the company’s ongoing campaign, Team Buche Cares, to feed the hungry and provide assistance to those in the local community. “Our goal is to provide food and essential items for those in need in times of a gap in benefits,” Buche said.
Buche also discussed the difficulties independent operators are having with obtaining high-demand products and the concerns the industry faces in keeping independents – particularly in rural and low-access communities – open and competitive when larger retailers are able to demand lower prices, priority access and exclusive package sizes from suppliers.
“We appreciate Chairman McGovern and the House Rules Committee’s efforts to shine a light on the pressing issue of food insecurity that afflicts too many in our nation,” said Greg Ferrara, NGA’s president and CEO. “Giving our member, RF Buche, the opportunity to highlight the work his company is doing to address food access and hunger in the South Dakota communities they operate exemplifies the outsized impact that independent grocers have on making sure rural Americans are fed.”
Separately, NGA laid out key antitrust concerns in a statement for the record that was submitted to the committee for the roundtable. The statement focuses on how anticompetitive actions from big-box retailers and “power buyers” are negatively impacting food access for rural communities and making it difficult for independent grocers to keep their shelves stocked and their doors open. “While shortages and limited availability of critical inputs and food supplies affects everyone, the impact of these shortages are felt disproportionately by independent grocers and the rural communities they serve,” the statement reads.
“As Congress considers antitrust enforcement in Big Tech, Americans’ food supply should be part of that conversation. What we cook is at least as important as what we click. The laws written to prevent this conduct can no longer be ignored and must be enforced to protect local stores, consumer access, and Americans’ health.”
About RF Buche and GF Buche Co.
Established in 1905, RF Buche owns and operates grocery, convenience, fast food, hardware and auto parts stores in 20 locations in 11 different communities spread throughout South Dakota. GF Buche Co. is the only South Dakota independent grocery retailer that is approved to accept SNAP benefits online and is currently being used as the beta test for WIC online. The company employs approximately 400 employees and is planning for more growth.
NGA is the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale community grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry. An independent retailer is a privately owned or controlled food retail company operating a variety of formats. The independent grocery sector is accountable for about 1.2 percent of the nation’s overall economy and is responsible for generating more than $250 billion in sales, 1.1 million jobs, $39 billion in wages and $36 billion in taxes. NGA members include retail and wholesale grocers located in every congressional district across the country, as well as state grocers’ associations, manufacturers and service suppliers. For more information about NGA, visit www.nationalgrocers.org.